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The Importance of High School Course Selection

If you think the courses you choose to take in high school are insignificant to college admissions, think again. In fact, based on my experience speaking with college admissions directors across the country over the last ten years, and a recent survey conducted by the National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC), the number one factor in admissions, from the most selective universities on down, is academic rigor and the grades earned in each academic course. Data in the 13th annual edition of NACAC’s State of College Admission report shows students' grades and the academic rigor of their course loads weigh more heavily in decisions to admit than standardized test scores, high school class rank, or demonstrated interest in attending.

What courses should you choose?

Academic core courses!!! Florida public universities, such as the University of Florida, Florida State University and University of Central Florida re-calculate applicant GPA’s so as to only consider academic core courses. As reported in our What do Colleges Look For in an Applicant? blog, academic courses are those in English, Math, Social Science, Natural Science with lab, and World Language. Academic electives such as AP Psychology, AP Environmental Science, Marine Science, Philosophy, Holocaust History - to name a few - are also included.

What is considered a rigorous course?

Advanced Placement, AICE, IB, Capstone, and Dual Enrollment courses are considered rigorous and add the most weight to a student’s GPA. Honors courses are also rigorous, but to a lesser extent. Successful students should not earn lower than a B in a rigorous academic course!

Does that mean students should ONLY take AP/Honors core courses?

No. Just like in life, balance is everything. Students must know their own strengths and weaknesses. For instance, my own daughters, currently at the University of Florida, were not strong in science in high school. As a result, they took all their science courses at the honors level as opposed to AP.

I am a firm believer that there is a college for everyone. The most important thing, as I have said in my Can I? Should I? blog, is a student’s happiness, confidence and well-being. Happy students are successful students. It never makes sense to take a course at a level that you know is way above your knowledge or comfort level. Correct placement is essential! The Golden Rule is to take several academic courses per school year at a level that will challenge but not overwhelm.

High School course selection can be very confusing! For course selection guidance, please call Ascent College Advising at 954 651 3335.

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